Kate Walsh: An Interview with the Private Practice Actress Turned Perfumer
Kate Walsh, the auburn beauty from television’s “Private Practice” has been very busy lately with her new Boyfriend. The latest celeb to take a foray into the fragrance industry has come up with a decidedly different concept and a really gorgeous smelling scent. Based on the smell that your boyfriend leaves on your skin; Walsh’s version is an edible and sexy fragrance that captures the essence of a man’s cologne that combines woody notes with plum and myrrh at the top. I had a chance to chat with Walsh recently and here’s what she had to say about the creation process, her inspiration for Boyfriend and why you don’t need an actual beau to smell like one.
Tell us about the inspiration behind Boyfriend. How did you make your vision happen?
Well, I came up with this idea several years ago; I think it was about 6 years ago to be exact. My boyfriend and I had broken up and I was in New York shopping and I missed him. I missed his fragrance. So I went to the perfume counter. I was in Jeffrey’s in New York and I was like, “You know what? I’m just going to get a guy’s scent. Who cares? I don’t have to have a boyfriend to have this.” For some reason I felt some weird trepidation. I don’t know why. But I was like I don’t have to have a boyfriend to have a boyfriend scent.
And then a little bell went off and I was like, “Oh, cool. Wouldn’t that be a great idea for a fragrance?” And then I thought, “I’m not going to do anything because who needs another celebrity fragrance out there?” No disrespect to other celebs. I just wasn’t interested in that, but then the idea wouldn’t leave me alone. I would try men’s fragrances – a lot of girls wear men’s fragrances -- but they were too strong or too much. And then the story of it wouldn’t let me alone. I kept thinking of all the different ways to tell a boyfriend’s story and how everywhere I go – lunch, dinner, drinks, out, shopping -- women are always talking about their boyfriends or husbands and that was what was really inspiring to me. So two things: I couldn’t really find that scent I was thinking about that would give me that olfactive memory, and there was this story everybody could relate to.
I decided two years ago to embark on, not doing a licensing deal or a royalty deal, but making the company myself so I could be really hands on by creating the fragrance and designing the packaging and really coming up with the marketing campaign. Also, after I had campaigned for Obama a few years ago, I was very, obviously, I think everyone was pretty inspired by this sort of grassroots effort and what was happening virally to support and influence and inform the campaign. And I thought it would be kind of a great experiment to try to launch a brand solely digitally in terms of marketing. The creative part was also interesting to me. I didn’t want to go with a regular licensing deal because once you do that you’re just collecting the checks really. You don’t have much creative input or control. That’s a really long, rambling way to say how I started Boyfriend, but that’s where it all came from. So I started this crazy company and here we are!
Tell us about Boyfriend the fragrance. What is the best time to wear Boyfriend? What are the notes?
I remember very distinctly my first boyfriend’s cologne, which was Polo Ralph Lauren, and going on a double date with him and a friend and her boyfriend from high school and then coming home and having that smell on us and going, “Oh my God, my shirt smells like him!” and having that crazy, giddy feeling. But also just that sense memory and how powerful that is. You smell somebody’s chocolate chip cookies and all of a sudden you’re transported back to your grandmother’s kitchen when you were a kid. It’s powerful in terms of the feelings it brings up and the storytelling that could come around it. That’s what really intrigued me. I love men’s scents. But when we were developing the fragrance I realized I really didn’t want to wear one as a steady diet. It was too much, too heavy. So when we were developing the fragrance we had this idea of having woody amber notes but we realized that, at the top, we wanted a floral. We put in the night-blooming jasmine and this juicy plum so it has a little juiciness that’s very sensual. You want to take a bite out of it. There’s vanilla as well and then it dries down to a little bit of the wood and amber. Each component, like the dry body oil and the pulse point oil, is a little different. So they all layer really well together. The nice thing about it is that it’s not a huge, oppressive fragrance. It’s not a big fragrance that announces itself when it comes into the room. You smell it and go, “Ooh, what’s that?” It’s sort of edible. And because it has these different notes and it’s a move-in fragrance, it can layer really well with other fragrances. What I wanted was a scent of a guy left on his shirt -- a very worn-in, masculine scent. It’s got that perfect balance of masculine and feminine and that’s what we were striving for.
The promotional videos are so sexy and flirtatious and they a great story. What kind of woman is this scent made for? How do you think Boyfriend will make her feel?
In the beginning it’s this kind of romance about a guy and a girl and as the webimmercials progress it’s more about the memory of him -- whether she’s stood up or not. It was like, “OK. You know what? I’ve got my boyfriend in a box. It’s totally cool.” I wanted that feeling, whether a guy is in the picture or not. It was this spirit of “Wear the red dress.” When you get the train case it has a little note that says, “Wear the red dress. Love, Your Boyfriend.” I wore a red dress to promote it, but it’s also about the spirit of feeling good and feeling sexy for yourself -- whether there’s a guy in the picture or not. It also happens that guys like the scent a lot too. The guys I’m around seem to enjoy it, but I was definitely making it for us.
Tell us about the perfume creation process. Where there any surprises along the way?
The biggest surprise to me was that – first of all it was a wonderful experience in terms of just being an artist and being a collaborator. One of my favorite things about acting is you get to go on set and collaborate with 100 crew member every day. You can have that balance of having a really specific vision and knowing what you want and then letting reality inform you and other people who are experts in their fields inform you.
I felt really grateful to have that experience because the fragrance arena is obviously new - the whole business - is a totally new territory to me. So to have this idea that, yes, I want this men’s fragrance just softened up a bit. It’s like having his fragrance on your skin with your own floral notes. The biggest surprise was, ‘Oh, I don’t want to have a straight-up men’s fragrance for women. I want it softened up. I want to have the balance of masculine and feminine and, what in the fragrance industry they would describe as the woody and the amber notes and the floral notes balanced in there. I want to wear this all the time. I want people to be able to wear this all the time. I’ve always worn oils and one of the things that were important with Marypierre, who developed it, was this idea of layering it. Not only being able to layer it within the Boyfriend products but with other fragrances. It’s palatable and malleable so if you are loyal to your other fragrance you can still work this in there.
Which part of the creation process did you most enjoy and which part was the most challenging?
That’s a really good question. I really loved all the sampling. Like I said, I had a really specific idea of what I wanted for this initial Boyfriend. There are other Boyfriends to come, like in life. Most people don’t have just one. There are others! But for this one, I really wanted to tell the story of a guy and a girl and the memory of him. I should say that part of the inspiration was that luxury feel and the romance of the train case. I wanted the design of the bottle to have that classic Chanel-type shape but modernized and with a Boyfriend twist. I wanted that luxury, but accessible so you don’t have to be a millionaire to get it. I loved doing the sampling but when it finally came to pulling the trigger and making the decision that was just agonizing to me. There were a lot of anxiety-fueled phone calls. It’s hard to commit and say, “This is it!”
The designing I just had a ball with. Chad Levine designed the bottle. We all collaborated on it, but he was just incredible. And just having an idea and seeing it become a 3D thing that’s going to be out there in the market place was just a fabulous feeling. Making up a business was really challenging and saying, “Ok, I’m going to do it this different way.” I made it like you would a TV pilot in Hollywood. You write it and then you go and try to sell it. Basically, I bankrolled the whole thing and luckily we sold it in the room to HSN and Sephora, which was a huge validation. That was the good news. Then they’re like, “OK, now you have to make a company and now you have to finance it and now you have to get a loan from the bank.” I have a great consultant, Pamela Vale, who has taken a lot of brands to market. She’s incredible and her knowledge and support has been amazing. Then we hired a designer, and a manufacturer and operations person. It was sort of like I built this company from Elmer’s glue and lint. It’s hugely exciting!
For more from the interview with Kate Walsh, visit ScentRebel.com